Tuesday, March 31, 2015

New Substitutes for Flour or Bread (1802)

Yesterday I gave you a thirteenth century description of sourdough – the making of which was already a very old practice by many, many centuries, as we know. Today I want to show you that seeded and other specialty breads are also far from new.

Although the source I am using today was written a mere couple of centuries ago, it describes a huge range of grain, seed, and other plant materials which the author of the book was satisfied were authoritatively documented to have been used in the making of bread.
The book is one of four volumes with the full glorious title of The Domestic Encyclopaedia: or, A dictionary of facts and useful knowledge : comprehending a concise view of the latest discoveries, inventions, and improvements chiefly applicable to rural and domestic economy : together with descriptions of the most interesting objects of nature and art : the history of men and animals, in a state of health or disease : and practical hints respecting the arts and manufacrures, both familar and commercial : illustrated with numerous engravings and cuts... by A.F.M. Willich  (London, 1802.)

The paragraphs I am interested in are in the section on Bread:-

New Substitutes for Flour or Bread.
We have, in the preceding analysis, as well as on former occasions, mentioned various substances which might advantageously be employed in the manufacture of this indispensable article of human sustenance; independently of the different kinds of grain and roots that are already made subservient to this beneficial purpose. In order to exhibit a distinct view of the most promising
substitutes, whether indigenous or exotic, and especially such as have actually been used, on the authority of creditable evidence, we shall here divide them into three classes, and, in the course of the work, give a more particular, account of each article, in its alphabetical order.

I. Farinaceous Seeds: — Wheat-grass, or Triticum Spelta; Millet, or Panicum miliaceum; Common Buck-wheat or Polygonum fagopyrum; Siberian Buck-wheat, or Polygonum tataricum; Wild Buckwheat, or Polygonum convolvulus; Wild Fescue-grass, or Festuca fluitans ; Maize, or Indian Corn, the Mays Zea; Rice, or Oryza sativa; Guinea Corn, or White Round-seeded Indian Millet, the Holcus Sorghum, L.;Canary-grass, or Phalaris canariensis; Rough Dog's-tail Grass, or Cynosurus echinatus; Water Zizany, or Zizania aquatica; Upright Sea Lime-grass, or Elymus arenarius; Sea-reed, Marram, Helme, or Sea Mat-weed, the Calamagrostis or Arunda armaria.
The following mealy fruits, however, deserve a decided preference over many of the preceding: viz. Water Caltrops, or the fruit of the Trapa natans, L.; Pulse of various kinds, such as Peas, Lentils, Beans, and the seeds of the Common Vetch, Fetch, or Tare-acorns, and especially those of the Quercus cerris and esculus; the seeds of the White Goose-foot, Common Wild Orangem or the Chemodia album; the seeds and flowers of the Rocket, or Brassica eruca; the seeds of the Sorrel, or Rumex acetosa; of the different species of Dock, or Lapathum; of the Yellow and White Water-lily, or the Nymphaea lutea and alba  of the Corn-spurrey, or Spergula arvensis; of the Spinage, or Spinacia oleracea, L.; of the Common Gromwell, or Graymill, the Lithospermum officinale; of the Knot-grass, or Paniculum aviculare; the Beech-nut; the husks of the Lint-seed, &c.

II. Farinaceous Roots: namely, those of the Common and Yellow Bethlem Star, or Ornithogalum luteum and umbellatum; of the Yellow Asphodel; of the Wake Robin, or Arum muculatum (after being properly dried and washed) j of the Pilewort, or Lesser Celandine, the Ranunculus ficaria; of the Common Dropwort, the Spiroea filipendula; of the Meadow-sweet, or Spiraea ulmaria; of the White Bryony, or Bryonia alba; of the Turnip-rooted Cabbage, or Napobrassica; of the Great Bistort, or Snake-weed; of the Small, Welch, or Alpine Bistort; of the Common Orobus, or Heath-pea; the Tuberous Vetch; the Common Reed; both the Sweet-smelling and Common Solomon's Seal; the Common Corn-flag, or Gladiolus communis; the Salt-marsh Club-rush, or Scirpus maritimus, &c.- Indeed, some authors also include in this list the roots of the Mandragora, Colchicum , Fumaria bulg., Helleborus acconitifol, and nigr., Lilium bullbif. , and many others; but for these last mentioned we have not sufficient authority.

III. Fibrous and less juicy Roots: viz. those of the Couch-grass, or CreepingWheat-grass; the Clown's, or Marsh Wound-wort; the Marsh Mary-gold, or Meadow Bouts; the Silver-weed, or Wild Tansy; the Sea Seg, or Carex arenarius, &c.

Well, if that doesn’t give you bread-enthusiasts some inspiration, I don’t know what will!

There are recipes elsewhere on this blog for bread made with turnips, potatoes, pease and soybeans, but most of the others mentioned in the article are remaining stubbornly mysterious. I do however have a recipe for you for a bread which could have made this list. It is from one of the greatest bread books ever written – Eliza Acton’s The English bread-book for Domestic Use, published in 1857.

French-Bean Bread.
The seed of the white varieties of French-bean, boiled quite tender, and rubbed through a strainer to divest them of their skins, and mixed with two thirds of their weight of flour or meal, will make bread which in flavour and appearance can scarcely be known from genuine wheaten bread; and as the bean is one of the most nutritious by far of all vegetables, it will replace very advantageously a portion of wheat-flour for persons whose digestion is not extremely delicate: by those who are out of health, this bread is perhaps better avoided.* After the beans have been prepared as above, the pulp from them should be intimately mixed with the flour or meal, and the bread finished in the usual way. It will be seen, as the dough is gradually moistened, that less liquid will be required for it than for common wheaten-bread; but the exact difference cannot easily be specified. The dough should be mixed entirely at once, and be made rather firm. The seed of the scarlet-runner, or any other coloured variety of the vegetable (if the flavour were not strong), would probably answer as well as the white, particularly for brown bread.

Pulp of white French beans (haricots blancs), 1 lb.; wheat-flour or meal, 2 lbs., made into dough with the common proportion of yeast, rather less liquid, and a little more salt. Fermented and baked like other bread.           

*The French-bean seed, known as haricots blancs, served so abundantly at foreign tables, and very much now in England also, is not considered, even where it is so much eaten, as well adapted to invalids. When quite fresh, it is less objectionable than after it is harvested for winter consumption.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Thirteenth Century Sourdough.

It is often said that everything old is new again, and nowhere is this more true than in the modern ‘artisan’ bread movement, as I hope to show you over the next couple of days.

The first great medieval encyclopaedia was written in France in about 1240, by an English Franciscan monk known as Bartholomaeus Anglicus. It was written in Latin, of course, as were all such manuscripts of the time, and it was called De Proprietatibus Rerum (On the Nature of Things.) The first English translation was completed in 1397. The manuscript remained an important reference for centuries, and it still of great interest. There are some fascinating snippets amongst the astrology, theology and natural history, including the following piece on sourdough from the translation by Stephan Batman in 1582.

Of Fermento. cap. 68.
Sowre dough is called Fermentum, for it maketh paast feruent, & maketh it also arise, as Isidore sayth, libro. 20. cap. 1. Sowre dough is compounded of diuerse vertues, and hath substaunce and vertue lyke, therefore it hath vertue to heaue paast and bread, and to change and amende the sauour thereof, and to turne into his lykenesse all matter that it is meddeled with, and hath vertue to drawe soone euill humours out of the bodie, as Dioscorides sayth, and to ripe and to open Postumes and Botches, if it be meddeled with Salt: and openeth the pores of the body by his subtilty, and dissolueth & tempereth humours, & is called Fermentum in Latine, & Zima in Gréek. And so paast made onely of meale and of water is called Asima, as it were Sima, without sowre dough, and Sima, sowre dough reareth paast and bread that is meddeled therewith, and chaungeth the sauour, and thirleth & distributeth partes thereof, as it is sayde super Epistolam. 1. Cor. 5.

So, sourdough was considered important enough to be included in this thirteenth century ‘explanation of everything.’ How interesting is that?

I want to give you a little more on old-new bread ideas tomorrow, but to finish today, here is a thoroughly modern seventy-something year old recipe for a nice sourdough ferment.

Ordinary Yeast.
Take 3 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons sugar, and mix to paste with ½ cup lukewarm water. Seal mixture in air-tight jar, allow to stand in warm place until fermented (about 48 hours). Then mix 2 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon sugar to a paste with ¾ cup lukewarm water, and add to the above mixture. Allow to stand again for 48 hours. The yeast is now ready for use. To keep this yeast working, feed it every other night with 2 tablespoons flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and ¾ cup lukewarm water.

‘Truth’ and ‘Daily Mirror’ Cookery Book, (Brisbane, Australia, c.1943) by Ruth Cilento.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Peace Cake Day?

It is some time since I wrote an “on this day” story  about an old English tradition involving food. I am not quite going to do that today either. I am going to look ahead a couple of days to Sunday, which happens to be Palm Sunday in the calendar of the Christian Church. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter, and therefore the beginning of Holy Week.

I found my food story in Old English Customs Extant at the Present Time: an account of local observances, published 1896 by G. Redway:

The old custom of the “Pax Cake” is still kept up in the united parishes of Sellack and King's Capel, Herefordshire. On Palm Sunday plain cakes are distributed in church, the intention being that those who have quarrelled should break the cake together, and say “Peace and good will” thus making up their differences in preparation for the Easter Communion. At some period glasses of beer were introduced, and the present vicar remembers seeing the beer handed round in the church; but this part of the ceremony has long been discontinued, and was not originally part of the custom. The cost of the cakes is defrayed by a rent-charge on a farm in the parish.

Descriptions and interpretations of this ritual vary a little, depending on the source. It seems to have been practiced since at least the sixteenth century, and may have begun with a bequest from a Lady Scudamore. The pax cakes themselves are variously described as plain cakes, pancakes (sometimes with wording ‘stamped’ upon them) or buns. I have not found a definitive recipe, and doubt there ever was one, as the major purpose of the cake was symbolic.

I did however find the following recipe in of all things, an Australian newspaper of 1919. The recipe won an Honorable Mention in a competition, and the name presumably references the end of World War I, as with the sentiment behind Peace Christmas Pudding.

Peace Cake.
Take 3 eggs, 1 cupful sugar, 1 cup of self-rising flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and a little spice. Bake in moderate oven for an hour. – Miss Eileen Flaherty, Glen Forrest.
Sunday Times (Perth, WA) 3Aug 1919

Stripped of its religious and cultural connotations, this idea of a cake to share with neighbours in a spirit of Peace and Goodwill seems to me to be an excellent tradition worth instating on a global as well as a local scale. Miss Flaherty’s recipe sounds like a good starting point - it is simple, yet sweet and light enough and adaptable enough to appeal to pretty well everyone, everywhere, does it not? What do you think?  Shall we choose a date and declare an International Peace Cake Day? 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Walnuts for Breakfast.

Today I want to wend my way Around the Kitchen Clock with Walnuts. This delightful little promotional recipe book was produced by the California Walnut Growers’ Association in the 1930’s.
Walnuts for Breakfast?
You may think that using walnuts at breakfast requires a little stretch of the imagination, but after you’ve tried a few of these suggestions you’ll wonder why you never thought of it before. Walnuts belong in breakfast menus – for their delightful flavour and crunchy crispness. Just try them! You’ll find the family enthusing over the new appeal in their everyday foods.

You can start right off with the fruit. If you serve baked apples, add a few chopped walnuts to the sugar and spices for the filling. Or you can rescue prunes from their everyday sameness by stuffing each one with a walnut half in place of the pit.
The breakfast jam or marmalade is greatly improved when a few broken walnut kernels are added. Many women make their preserves that way in the first place – or just mix in a few walnuts before serving.

And breakfast breads – that’s where walnuts come into their own!  Have you ever eaten toasted nut bread? If not, you’ve missed something! Muffins, buns, rolls – any sweet bread is better with walnuts added to the dough. Or chop a few kernels very fine and sprinkle them over the cinnamon buns or coffee cake. Walnuts blend delightfully with the raisins in such breads and add a delicious extra flavour.

Do you tire of the same old cereals day after day! Then add chopped walnuts to the cooked cereal just before you take it from the stove. Their flavor and firm “body” will be a pleasant surprise. It’s a good way to get the children to eat their cereal, too!

And we’ve saved the best breakfast suggestion till last. Waffles! Pancakes! Favorites in every family! But until you’ve tried waffles or pancakes made with walnuts you don’t know how good they can be. Just add a handful of chopped kernels to your own recipe – and you’ll discover a new delight in these old favorites.

Here are two of the five breakfast walnuts recipes given in the booklet:

Walnut Scrapple.
1 cup cornmeal                        1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ cup hominy                         6 cups water
1 cup Diamond Walnut kernels.
Combine the cornmeal, hominy, salt, and boiling water in the top of a double boiler. Cook over direct heat stirring constantly till thick. Then place over boiling water in the bottom of the double boiler. Cook about 1 hour. The add the Diamond Walnut kernels and pour into a greased dish. Cool and chill until firm, then cut into slices and sauté in hot fat in a skillet. Serves 6 to 8.

Steamed Walnut Brown Bread.
1 cup breadcrumbs                  1 cup cornmeal
1½ cups milk                           1 cup oatmeal
½ cup molasses                       2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt                                    ¾ cup water
1 cup whole wheat flour         1 cup broken Diamond Walnut kernels.

Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk. When soft, rub the crumbs and milk through a strainer and add the molasses and the salt, whole wheat flour, cornmeal, and soda which have been sifted together, the rolled oats and the water. Blend well and add the Diamond Walnut kernels. Pour into four greased 1 lb. baking powder tins, and steam for 2 hours. Makes 4 loaves.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

An Interest in Corn Flour.

I was briefly excited yesterday when I thought that yesterday’s source, A war cookery book for the sick and wounded, included a recipe for scones made purely with corn flour. I was mistaken, I misread the recipe. I don’t believe I have ever seen a recipe for scones made purely with cornflour, and I thought it might be really useful for my friends who are gluten intolerant. Sorry folks.

The error did send me on a bit of a mission however, – to find interesting dishes based on cornflour – not yellow corn meal, but the very fine very white very pure starch made from corn (which is maize, as you know.) My first reading of the day was The Journal of Agriculture, Vol. I (London, May 1828-Aug 1829) and it contained a rather long discussion of a paper called:

A Treatise on Cobbett’s Indian Corn, containing Instructions for propagating and cultivating the Plant, and for harvesting and preserving the Crop; and also an Account of the several Uses to which Produce is applied, with Minute Directions relative to each Mode of Application. By William Cobbett.

The article was interesting – as much for its strong English opinions of French and American attitudes to food as it is as an invitation to consider the uses of maize. I give you a very short part of the piece:

Mr Cobbett directs our attention to the uses of his corn in the making of puddings, cakes, and bread. It would be difficult for Mr Cobbett to write on any subject on which he could not instruct or amuse; but we must fairly tell him, that, in the manufacture of those well-known substances, we do not imagine that his favoured corn possesses a single advantage over the golden grain of his native country. We believe it, on the contrary, to be vastly inferior. In the making of bread, it is known that Indian corn is no substitute for the flour of wheat. In fact, the mixing of Indian corn with the flour of wheat is a real adulteration, not so bad, indeed, as the mixing with it of ground granite and Derbyshire spar (with which we have no doubt Mr Cobbett himself has been occasionally and unconsciously regaled, on his visits to the great city), but quite as bad as the mixing with it the starch, nay, the whole substance, maggets and all, of the calumniated potato.
…. Mr Cobbett, in his comments on those truly home manufactures, puddings and dumplings, and which he reasonably imagines to ‘have come down to us from an age anterior to the Saxon Heptarchy, takes occasion to remark, on the provoking insolence ofvour neighbours the French, who, though the most polite people in the world in every thing else, are the most rude and untractable whenever cookery comes in question. Will it be believed, that they have the unparalleled insolence to call our puddings lumps. of dough. There is something quite astonishing, observes Mr Cobbett at this insolence of the French, who are in general ready enough to imitate the follies and the vices of the English. We have indeed been ourselves a hundred times provoked by the pertinacity of our ingenious neighbours, in this matter of the kitchen. Implore the veriest cinder-Wench of France to deviate ever so little from the established code de la cuisine, and you will plead in vain.
… In pursuing the interesting subject of puddings, Mr Cobbett lets out, that even his friends the Yankees, are not so partial to these dainties as he would have them. “They care little about puddings; but we,” says he, “care a great deal about them. Inmy family we have, in the first place, suet puddings boiled; batter puddings boiled, Yorkshire puddings baked under meat; and baked puddings, in which the corn- flour supplies the place of ground-rice. We have all these puddings in the greatest perfection, made wholly of cornflour.” '‘ Now, this is all well ; but we must not infer too much from it in favour of corn-flour; for the very same good things may be produced at the cost of about three farthings the pound, and in a way to please the taste of an epicure, and all of potato starch. The same recipe which Mr Cobbett gives for teaching the cook obedience in the one case, will serve in the other. “Say to ‘Mrs Cook,’ ‘ here is some corn-flour, cook; make a batter pudding of it.’ She will at once declare it to be impossible ; ‘ Quite impossible, ma’am! I never saw such a thing in my life.’ If she have a a little sense, and particularly if she be saving money to get married, and is given to understand that you mean to have the pudding made, and properly made, she will be converted by the end of the week, especially if you give a hint, that though she is a very good cook, and though you like her extremely well, you MUST HAVE the puddings. Of course, I mean that the corn-flour, in these cases of batter puddings, ground-rice puddings, and Yorkshire puddings, and also of suet puddings, if you make them with plums, is, to have its share of eggs honestly allowed it! I am not pretending, or contending, that the cornflour contains eggs within itself; and therefore I must strongly protest before-hand, against ‘Mrs Cook’ leaving out the eggs, or any part of them, and putting them by from her natural desire, which she so rigidly carries into practice, to spare the purse of her master ! No, no, let us have our due share of the eggs, and we shall have better puddings; I say better; I repeat the word better expressly, and will abide by the judgment of any ten women who are worthy to be entrusted with the management of a family.”

Sadly, to date I have been completely unable to find recipes for Yorkshire pudding or suet pudding made purely from cornstarch.

In my search however I did come across another interesting piece - Recipes used in Illinois Corn Exhibit model kitchen, Women's Building, Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893 by the well-known cookbook writer Sarah T. Rorer.
Much has been said and written on the value of Indian corn or maize as a substitute for wheat, and while many articles have been carefully written, almost all have made the same grave mistake in classing it at par with wheat as a tissue builder; and ignoring entirely the fact, that cornmeal must be kiln-dried, to be easy of digestion, and should have the germ removed to insure its keeping qualities. Corn is the most abundant product we have in America; has many virtues, and for the advancement of these virtues to our own and foreign visitors, the women of Illinois have established this exhibit.

There is a recipe for drop scones in the book, but they are made with corn meal, not corn starch, but I wont hold that against them:

Put 2 cups of corn meal into a bowl. Add a tablesp. of sugar, a teasp. of salt, 2 teasp. of baking-powder and mix it well together. Add a large tablesp. of butter. With your hands rub it intothe flour. Add to this sufficient cold milk to make a batter that will drop, not pour from the spoon. Bake on a griddle in muffin rings, same as you would ordinary muffins.

I have to give you the following recipe from the same source, on account of the jolly name.

Scald 1 cup yellow meal. Beat to a cream ¼ cup butter, add well beaten 3 eggs, then 1 pt.
warm milk, that has been scalded and cooled. Beat, add meal, 1 yeast cake dissolved in 2 tablesp. warm water, ½ cup of sugar, and sufficient flour to make a soft dough. Cover and stand into a warm place until very light, over night better. In morning make out into balls size of English walnuts, place on floured cloth and when light, about one hour, fry in smoking hot fat. Dust with sugar and serve.

Finally, a cornstarch recipe from the book, with a most interesting name, even if it is not a particularly exciting concept.

Heston Pudding.
Moisten 4 even tablesp. of corn-starch. Pour over 1 pt. of boiling water. Cook just a minute. Add ½ cup of sugar and then stir in the well beaten whites of 3 eggs. Turn into a mould and stand away to cool, making the sauce of yolks of eggs as in preceding pudding. When pudding is cold and ready to serve turn it into a serving dish, garnish with quince or apple jelly. Pour around the vanilla sauce and serve.

Still no cornflour-only Yorkshire puddings, but I will keep searching. As a final gift, here are some ‘Plunkets’ which do have a little ordinary flour as well as cornflour.

Cream ½ lb. butter, add gradually ½ lb. granulated sugar. Separate 6 eggs.  Beat whites until stiff, beat yolks, add them to whites, then to butter and sugar. Sift together twice, 6 oz. corn-starch, 2 oz. flour, 1 teasp. baking-powder, and add gradually to the other mixture, add 1 teasp. vanilla. Bake in patty pans fifteen minutes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Wartime Recipes for the Sick and Wounded.

Once upon a not-too distant time, a huge part of a nurse’s job was day to day involvement with the preparation of food for their patients. I knew this, of course, when I picked up a copy of  A war cookery book for the sick and wounded : compiled from the cookery books by Mrs. Edwards, Miss May Little, etc., etc.(1914) by Jessie M. Laurie, but the following list really brought it home to me:-

  •        See that the tray, cloth and the napkin are spotlessly clean and that the food is nicely arranged on the plate.
  •        Only the freshest and best material should be used and served.
  •         In cases of serious illness the doctor's orders must be kept to the letter.
  •        Use very little seasoning without instructions.
  •         Liquid food must be varied as much as possible.
  •        All food should be given in small quantities and served at once when cooked.
  •         Where possible, no dish should be served a second time.
  •         All food must be covered when carried from kitchen to sickroom. 
  •          Never consult a patient about a meal.
  •          Put all medicines out of sight at meal-times and let the meals themselves be punctual.
  •          The food must be absolutely hot or cold, as the case may be nothing lukewarm.
  •          Vegetables and fruit should not be given without the doctor's consent.
  •          Steaming is the best method of cooking - fried foods are rich, and should be avoided in serious cases.
  •          All cooking utensils must be scrupulously clean.
  •          Oysters are excellent, as they contain a self-digesting ferment. Tripe is a good and cheap substitute, as it is digested in an hour.

What do you think about the instruction to “never consult a patient about a meal”?

The following recipe from the book would hit the spot, methinks, whether the eater be sick or well - in spite of the rather confused instructions:

Potato Soufflés.

Make a nice mashed potato adding the yolk and white of an egg, and about 1 oz. of butter. Mix in the butter, the yolk of an egg, and a little salt and pepper. Whip in the white, mix into the soufflé. Butter some little soufflé cases and fill them with this. Bake in a quick oven for 20 minutes. If liked, this can be served in a soufflé dish.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Making a Mockery of Dinner.

As most of you know, one of my favourite themes is that of mock food. I hasten to add that I never (or maybe almost never) want to actually prepare it or eat it, but I find it fascinating nonetheless.

One of the things that intrigues me about mock food is the motive for making it. In medieval times mock food played an important role during Lent, when elaborate look-alikes for animal foods were made to fill the groaning tables of the wealthy. Mock food was also one of the important forms of ‘subtelty’ –  elaborate, fantastical, sculptural pieces somewhere between food and entertainment that were paraded around the hall between courses to impress the guests or impart a message of propaganda.

In more recent times, the preparation of mock food has been motivated by rather more prosaic reasons – nostalgia for a food remembered but not available because of distances in time and geography, or perhaps hard economic reality when the desire for an expensive dish does not match the household budget.  I would like to think also – for fun?

I do always wonder, when I see a story or recipe for mock food, were the guests fooled? Was that the intention?

I found a recipe for the ultimate mock food recently, in a copy of Camouflage cookery; a book of mock dishes (1918) by Helen Watkeys Moore. Would you try to fool your guests with this nice little pre-dinner canapé?

Mock Pâté de Foie Gras Sandwiches.
Mix boneless sardines and cream cheese to a smooth paste
and spread between slices of bread.

And to go along with it, how about this tasty mock champagne?

To make Imitative Champagne.
Take twelve pounds of loaf sugar;
Six pounds of sugar candy;
Two ounces of tartaric acid;
Six quarts of cider, perry, or gooseberry wine;
One quart of French brandy;
Ten gallons of spring-water: Boil the water and sugar fifteen minutes, skim this clean, then put it into a narrow tub, and dissolve in it the tartaric acid: before it is cold, add some yeast to ferment it; draw it from the tub into any clean vessel; add the other ingredients, with a quarter of an ounce of isinglass dissolved in vinegar; stir the liquid well, and when the hissing is over bung it down tight; keep it in a cold place four or five months, then bottle it and keep it cool two months longer; add a lump of fine sugar to each bottle, and cork in the Champagne fashion.

Martin Doyle’s Common things of Every-day Life (1857)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Things to do with Aniseed.

I don’t believe I have covered aniseed before on this blog, and the universe seems to be reminding me of this fact, as I came across several references to it in one day recently while browsing around for wise words on a completely unrelated topic.

Anise, or aniseed (Pimpinella anisum) is a flowering plant native to the Mediterranean region and adjacent parts of Asia. The first attested use of the word in English is in 1398, and over the centuries since then, the aromatic seeds of the plant have been used to add a licorice-y flavour to comfits, baked goods, and cordials. Anise was also ascribed medicinal properties, and was considered particularly useful as a digestive. One of the sixteenth century references in the Oxford English Dictionary is in itself a mini-formula for a remedy – in this case for the dropsy.

For the dropsie, fill an olde cock with Polipody and Anniseedes, and seethe him well, and drinke the broth. (Garden of Health, 1597, W. Langham.)

Probably the best-known use today is in the confection known as an aniseed ball. Or maybe it is in the liqueurs favoured in the Mediterranean region and Turkey, such as anisette, pastis, and ouzo?

Once again, my week is hectic and my day already seeming punishingly short, so with no further ado, here is a random selection of aniseed recipes for your delectation.

Anise Water. Eau d'Anis, ou Anisette de Bordeaux.
For twenty-four pints of brandy take eight ounces of new anise-seed of Verdun, if possible; when old it is yellow and light, when new green and heavy: it is by having every thing the best of their kind that these compounds can obtain that excellence which every professional person would wish to arrive at in his compositions: rub them in a search to take out the dust; put them with the spirits to infuse in a jar with three zests of oranges, and half an ounce of bruised cinnamon; let it infuse for some days, and distil it with a moderate fire, never forgetting four pints of water, and drawing off the phlegm as is before directed, which is contained in the first half glassful that comes over the alembic: make some syrup upon the fire ; but as the anise contains a bitter salt, which often makes the liquor milky, and consequently difficult to clear, put in the spirits to the hot syrup, which ought to be made with a quart less water that eau blanche may be made of it with three or four whites of eggs: when the sugar is dissolved and hot, put in the spirits and white water; stir it upon the fire till it is hot without boiling; put it into the jar, and leave it till the next day well stopped ; filter or pass it through a bag. The oil requires only another pound of sugar to be added to the syrup.
The Art of French Cookery (1827) by Antoine Beauvilliers.

A Delicious Swiss Cake.
Beat the yolks of five eggs and one pound of sifted loaf sugar well together; then sift in one pound of best flour, and a large spoonful of anise seed; beat these together for twenty minutes; then whip to a stiff froth the five whites, and add them; beat all well; then roll out the paste an inch thick and cut them with a moulded cutter rather small; set them aside until the next morning to bake.
Rub the tins on which they are baked with yellow wax; it is necessary to warm the tins to receive the wax; then let them become cool, wipe them, and lay on the cakes, bake a light brown.
Cookery as it should be: a new manual ….(Philadelphia, 1856)

935. “Springerle,” or “Tirgeli’— Little Anise-seed Biscuits. (No. 1.)
Half a pound of fine flour, half a pound of sifted sugar, two eggs, an ounce of butter, and a pinch of carbonate of soda dissolved in a teaspoonful of milk, or a little more if necessary. Form with these a dough, which must be well kneaded. Roll it out a quarter of an inch thick; cut out little cakes with various fancy cutters. Sprinkle anise-seed over a pasteboard, lay on this the cakes nearly close together, and let them remain all night in a dry place. Butter tins very sparingly, lay the cakes on with a knife, and bake them in a very cool oven a pale yellow.
936. “Springerle”—Anise-seed Biscuits. (No. 2.)
Mix the anise-seeds into the dough described in 935. The more general way of moulding the springerle is with various figures cut in wooden blocks. These are dusted with flour, the paste rolled out and cut into small pieces, which are then pressed into the shapes, the surface shaved off with a knife, and the devices turned out by knocking the blocks as they are held upside down. Bake them very pale.
German National Cookery for English Kitchens (1873)

Aniseed Cakes.
Sift together four cups of flour, one cup of sugar and half a teaspoon of salt. Add three quarters of a cup of aniseed and work in two cups of butter as you would in making pie dough. Add two eggs and when your dough is mixed, roll it out and cut it into various shapes and bake in moderate oven for twenty minutes.

Spice Cookery (New York. 1942) by Helmut Ripperger

Thursday, March 19, 2015

To Make a Westminster Fool.

Today’s post is necessarily short, for I am not organized, so I must make it sweet. I take my inspiration from the rulers of all of our nations, who are more similar than we think, for is it not true that whoever you vote for, you get a politician?

I start with a fool, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as ‘a dish composed of fruit stewed, crushed, and mixed with milk, cream, or custard’, or, in an earlier form, to a simpler dish of “a kind of clouted [clotted] cream.’The first supporting quotation given is from Florio’s Italian/English Dictionary of 1598 which gives ‘Mantiglia, a kinde of clouted creame called a foole or a trifle in English.’

To Make a Westminster Fool.
Cut a penny loaf into thick slice, moisten them with sack, and lay them in the bottom of a dish; then take a quart of cream, six eggs beaten up, two spoonfuls of rose-water, some grated nutmeg, and a blade of mace, with sugar enough to sweeten it; put all these into a sauce-pan, st it over a slow fire, and keep it stirring all the time to prevent a curdling; when it begins to be thick, pour it into the dish over the bread. Let it stand till cold.
Art of Cookery (1774)  by Hannah Glasse.

My next choices are, rather surprisingly, from 365 Orange Recipes: an orange recipe for every day in the year (Philadelphia, 1909)

Parliament Pudding
Cream 1 tablespoonful of butter with ¾ cup of sugar, add the beaten yolks of 6 eggs, I cupful of fine bread crumbs which have been soaked in milk, and the juice and the grated rind of ½  an orange; stir this until very smooth, then add the beaten whites of 2 eggs. Have a pudding mould thickly buttered and dusted with dry crumbs, line with
macaroons wliich have been moistened with orange juice; put in a layer of the batter, then a layer of sponge cake spread with orange marmalade and alternate the layers until the mould is full, having batter at the top. Cover and steam for three-quarters of an hour, unmould carefully and serve with hard sauce.

Orange Torys.
Grate all of 1 thin-skinned orange, rejecting the seeds; seed and chop 1 cupful of raisins, add ½  cupful of sugar, 1 beaten egg and 1 cupful of cracker crumbs. Roll puff-paste very thin, spread with the above mixture, cover with paste, cut in strips and bake in a quick oven.

Until I find more for this amusing theme, there is also Parliament Gingerbread to be enjoyed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

An Extraordinary method of Stewing a Rump of Beef.

A stew was once a thing very different from the modern concept of something that the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “a preparation of meat slowly boiled in a stew-pan, generally containing vegetables, rice, etc.” The OED is in fact a mini-history of stews and stewing, as I hope to show you.

First, as a noun, the word ‘stew’as it was used in the fourteenth century was derived from the Old French estui, which referred to a tub or pond in which fish were kept until required for the table. Chaucer wrote, in his Canterbury Tales, “Ful many a fat partrych hadde he in Muwe And many a breem, and many a luce in Stuwe.”

To confuse matters however, at the same time the word had another usage, of which the OED admits, “the ulterior etymology is obscure,” but that “connection of some kind no doubt exists between the Romance word and the Germanic root” of a word which ultimately came into Old English in words such as stuf-bæþ or hot-air bath. This word seems pretty clearly to be related to the word stove. By the very early fourteenth century ‘stew’ referred to a cauldron as well as a heated room used for hot air or vapour baths. From here it came to refer to a brothel “on account of the frequent use of the public hot-air bath-houses for immoral purposes,” and “sometimes, a quarter occupied by houses of ill-fame.” Think on that, next time you make a stew for a nice family dinner.

It is not until the mid-eighteenth century that the OED finds the word used in the manner given at the beginning of this post, “a preparation of meat slowly boiled in a stew-pan, generally containing vegetables, rice, etc.”

Now, as for the word ‘stew” as a verb and an adjective, these are recorded in the first half of the fifteenth century in several cooking manuscripts, which refer to delights such as ‘pertritch [partridge] stewyde’ and ‘Smale Byrdys y-stwyde.’  

So, ‘stewing’, when it did not mean spending time in a brothel, I suppose, was used in a culinary sense from the early fourteenth century, but the actual dish named ‘a stew’ was not found for four hundred years. Isn’t the evolution of language an extraordinary thing?

Which brings me to the recipe for the day, which is from Cookery Reformed: or, The Lady’s Assistant … to which is added the Family Physician (London, 1755,) a marvelous book which has already given us a Curious Method of Roasting a Pig and Wooden Leg Soup.

An extraordinary method of Stewing a Rump of Beef.
Take a rump of beef properly salted, and boil it till it is half enough ; then take it up, and stuff it with sweet herbs, beaten with the yolks of eggs; and save the gravy that runs out while it is stuffing then put it into the pot again, and when is boiled enough, take it up, and stuff it in other places with beef marrow, and oisters: boil it again a little while, and then take it up. In the mean time, put a veal fweet bread parboiled, and some ox- palate well boiled, into the gravy, mixt with a gill of red wine: stew these together well, and then add what anchovies you think proper; a quart of oister liquor, and add some lemon-peel shredded small: when the oisters are enough, add the yolks of four or five eggs, and then serve them up with the beef.